Quick Links and Quotes: Force Awakens and Jessica Jones

Two quick links.

The Force Awakens

There can be no more discussion about whether the success of a given female-centric or female-led mainstream entertainment means anything other than the now indisputable fact that women will go to the movies with women and/or about women in numbers significant enough to justify those films being made. And moreover, there is no longer an argument about whether placing a female character at the center of a mainstream blockbuster does a box office disservice to said film here and abroad. We already knew the answer. But now everyone does. All they have to do is look at the fact that Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a female-led superhero sci-fi action blockbuster fantasy, is now the biggest-grossing movie of all time. Will this change things? Conventional wisdom says no, but conventional wisdom says The Force Awakens would have been better off making Rey the love interest rather than the hero.

— Scott Mendelson @ Forbes ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ A Female-Led Superhero Movie, Will Be The Biggest-Grossing Film Ever

I disagree a bit in that I saw Force Awakens as more of an ensemble film. And I think that Force Awakens and Hunger Games demonstrate that an action-adventure film with a leading actress can be a blockbuster if it gets equivalent production and promotion attention.

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones showrunner Melissa Rosenberg interviewed by Libby Hill.

Television seems to struggle when it is tackling depictions of sex, both consensual and otherwise. Was it important for you to have a lot of sex-positive encounters on the show? Conversely, how did you make your choices regarding depicting or not depicting rape?

With rape, I think we all know what that looks like. We’ve seen plenty of it on television and I didn’t have any need to see it, but I wanted to experience the damage that it does. I wanted the audience to really viscerally feel the scars that it leaves. It was not important to me, on any level, to actually see it. TV has plenty of that, way too often, used as titillation, which is horrifying.

— Libby Hill And Melissa Rosenberg @ LA Times, 'Jessica Jones' showrunner Melissa Rosenberg talks casting, adaptation, and female sexuality – LA Times

Which I think was also a good idea, also because any on-screen depiction of rape ends up dissected for ambiguity. Jessica Jones was doggedly unambiguous on the subject.

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Jessica Jones

I just finished it, and I think this article on tor.com sums up a fair bit of how I feel about it. The show goes out of its way to deconstruct Killgrave’s self-serving rationalizations. My chief complaint is that the show possibly spends a bit too much work foreshadowing the next season.

Michael Moorcock

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“I think of myself as a bad writer with big ideas, but I’d rather be that than a big writer with bad ideas”

Link Roundup and Videos

David Tennant on Jessica Jones

“Most of the characters are female and three of them are gay, which doesn’t define their storyline. After the fact you sort of realize that we had a lot of female personnel, also behind the camera,” he said. “Obviously we want to get to a stage where we don’t notice and it doesn’t matter. But clearly it’s still, unfortunately, rare enough that women make up 50 percent of the cast and executive teams and that’s something we remark upon. But if that’s why it’s a good show, then clearly it’s something we need to do more of.”

Nikki Hagen forced to resign from student ministry volunteer post

After Hagan assured him that her sexual orientation would not interfere with her ability to coordinate speakers for the group, she says she was told: “We regret to inform you that you are forced to resign from your position as message coordinator.”

“Forced to resign?”

Frank Oz staying in character through take after take of prop failure

Jessica Leigh Lebos, Don’t Call Us a War Zone

There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a bloody and brutal struggle. We are angry and traumatized. But after I saw a friend’s Facebook plea that we stop calling it a “war zone,” I have to agree.

In these times of subjective discourse, language—and literality—is more important than ever. War only begets more violence. War breaks the spirit.

In the words of General Sherman—the man who deemed Savannah too lovely to burn—war is hell.

I don’t want to live in hell. Do you?

For some, it’s probably easier to believe that the answer to the jacked–up violence is as simple as ridding ourselves of “the enemy.” Except that Savannah is not under attack from some foreign force.

Silpa Kovvali, Gender-neutral language should be the norm, not the exception

If the singular they is not prohibitively confusing, it’s unclear why its use ought to be limited to cases where the subject’s gender identity doesn’t fit neatly into a binary. Instead, we ought to revert to the gender neutral “they” whenever gender is not explicitly relevant. Least of all because, if the goal is greater inclusion, limiting the use of the singular they to these cases doesn’t even have the desired effect.

Jessica Jones: Episodes 1 – 3

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Marvel’s Jessica Jones

So this dropped on Friday. I’m going to put my thoughts behind a cut, because it’s still new and spoilers, but also because Jessica Jones deals with some pretty heavy issues around abuse and violence.

The premise that the superhero can be more than just men in tights fighting each other has been frequently promised but rarely delivered on. The Marvel movie franchise in particular has largely been stuck in the Big Dumb Comic Book Movie which waves a hand at ideas like the Singularity and the Surveillance State in order to give its fight scenes a little more gravitas. Rise of Ultron and Winter Soldier were movies that read the cliff notes for Neuromancer and 1984 respectively. But that’s just a setup for the various characters to have Bad Ass Moments®.

Jessica Jones is a story about abuse and PTSD. This is different from Tony Stark telling us in Iron Man 3, “oh heck, I have PTSD.” In Iron Man 3, it’s nothing more than a minor complication that gets talked about in route to the Bad Ass Moments®. How can we make this hostage situation more fraught? Give Tony PTSD.

In Jessica Jones, the PTSD is the plot, and series villain Killgrave doesn’t make an appearance until the third episode. Killgrave’s super power is mind control, and Jones is a survivor of his manipulation. Each episode introduces us to more victims of his power. Killgrave’s actions by proxy embody multiple aspects of emotional abuse: gaslighting, guilt, and complicity with the abuser. Rather than handwave them away, the series tackles them head-on. And unlike many post-modern superhero movies, the series has yet to introduce any ambiguity regarding Killgrave’s villainy.

If there is any ambiguity, it’s in the way in which survivors and the culture around them attempts to make sense of what happened. In Marvel Movie continuity, the world has barely started to accept the existence of The Hulk. Killgrave’s victims suffer from doubt regarding his power. The rest of the world demonstrates a range of attitudes from skepticism to active victim-blaming.

What impresses me about this is that Jessica Jones is quite possibly the first Marvel tv/movie product to actually take its premise seriously. Part of that includes keeping the tights and capes off-stage.

There are other bright spots and weak spots for me. On the plus side, we have the lesbian Hogarths who are presented multiple times as a married couple. For me, this is science fiction becoming the new reality. (Although I admit, it’s been the reality in New York for a while now.) I’m a bit ambivalent about the sex scenes between Jessica and hero-but-not-a-hero Luke Cage, which feel more titillating than developmental.